The Kenilworth Historical Society

Kenilworth - The suburban Ideal

A vision of a country home with the conveniences of the city prompted Joseph Sears to move his family from Chicago’s Prairie Avenue to the undeveloped woodland north of the city on the shores of Lake Michigan.  The story of the realization of that vision and the founding of his ideal village – Kenilworth – is told in the Kenilworth Historical Society’s new film.

Written and produced by award-winning filmmaker John Newcombe, Kenilworth: The Suburban Ideal is an authentic historical account of the early village, detailing Joseph Sears’ vision for creating his idyllic community.  The film includes many recollections from early residents, including excerpts from the extensive hand-written diaries of Joseph Sears’ daughter, Dorothy.


“As an early planned suburban community, Kenilworth has a particularly interesting history,” recounts KHS past-president Tim Miller who chaired the KHS film committee. The project was first initiated in the fall of 2014 when the KHS board approved the funding to develop a script for the proposed film. Subsequently, acclaimed filmmaker and Winnetka native John Newcombe was selected to script and produce the film.  “John spent 6 months creating the script.  He immersed himself in the history of the village, studying mass amounts of historical documents, reviewing chronicles, and completely internalizing Joseph Sears’ rationale for why and how he developed the village,” explained Miller. “John then spent the next 12 months bringing the script to life through the production of the film.”

The resulting documentary contains historical images expertly blended with new aerial footage provided by Kenilworth resident and pilot Brad Savage.

“Our objective was to create an accurate and interesting film documenting the history of Kenilworth for our current village residents and for future generations,” explained Miller.  “Additionally, our hope is that it will be the carrot that entices people to come into the Historical Society to see our rotating and permanent exhibits and to learn more,” added Ginny Anderson, KHS executive director.

Although John Newcombe’s efforts have been paramount in the creation of this film, twenty people were involved in its making, from those who reviewed the scripts to those who researched the historical data to ensure its accuracy. Special acknowledgement goes to the members of the Kenilworth Historical Society’s Film Committee (Tim Miller, Steve Crawford, Mary Glerum, Jean Patterson, Ginny Anderson, Bill Hinchliff), and KHS curators Melinda Kwedar and Kyle Mathers, as well as Brad Savage for his outstanding aerial footage, David Jeremiah for his engaging film narration, and Frances Newcombe for her eye-catching graphics, enhancements and colorations.

The film will be introduced and available for purchase at the Historical Society’s Biennial Dinner on October 21st. John Newcombe will be speaking on its production and showing clips from the film.

The film will be available for purchase in DVD and Blu-ray format for $20 at the Kenilworth Historical Society, 415 Kenilworth Avenue, starting October 22nd.  Kenilworth Historical Society hours of operation are: 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Mondays and Thursdays.

For more information about this film visit

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Community Display Case

13344543_1085423568182240_4651671104972622720_nDo you have a collection you want to share? The Kenilworth Historical Society is opening up the lobby display case for public exhibits. If you have a personal collection you would like to share with the community please let us know. Curate an exhibit about your antique toy, rock, and mineral, baseball card, or any other collection you may have. Collectors of every age are encouraged to participate. Please contact us for more information

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Spring Newsletter

NewsletterTake a look at our Spring Newsletter! Read about recent exhibits, donations, and other happenings at the historical society.


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Kenilworth Flag

The official Kenilworth Flag


In the summer of 1987, Matthew Duffy was one of twenty Boy Scouts selected from Illinois to attend the World Jamboree to be held in Australia in 1989. As was the custom at Jamborees, the boys were asked to bring materials so that they could build something that represented their home area. The boys from Illinois Troop 1824 decided to build a replica of the Willis (then Sears) Tower.

It was also decided that each boy should bring a flag from his home city that would fly on the top of their tower. At the time, Kenilworth did not have an official flag. Searching for an Eagle Scout project, Matthew decided to design an official flag for Kenilworth and sell them to raise money for Troop 13.Flag Drawing

Matthew’s original design included : twenty-two stars for the Kenilworth service members lost in various wars, the George Washington Elm tree, the Kenilworth village script logo, and blue stripes bordering the top and bottom to represent the sky and Lake Michigan. The colors blue, green, and white were chose as they are also the colors of Joseph Sears School and New Trier High School.

Matthew’s Eagle Scout project required the Village Board’s approval, which he easily obtained. Working with Navy veteran and long time Kenilworth resident, Harry Kelso, Matthew reviewed his design and colored the stars gold. Matthew also obtained permission to use the Kenilworth script logo from the original designers great-grandson.

The design complete, Matthew contracted with a local sign maker to create 100 flags. The flag was first flown over the 1988 Memorial Day weekend. He sold all 100 flags and shortly after the Village Board declared the flag to be official. Matthew dedicated the flag to his grandfather, Kenneth E. Duffy, who lost his life during World War II.

In 2003, the Village Board again voted without objection to declare the flag permanent.

In 2014, the Kenilworth eighth grade Girl Scouts were seeking a fundraising project. They decided to reissue the flag around Memorial Day, 2015. They used the raised funds to purchase a new flagpole for the Village.

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Digital Photograph Campaign!

KHS has initiated a Digital Photograph Campaign! The purpose of the Digital Photograph Campaign is to collect and preserve contemporary photographs of the people, places, and organizations of Kenilworth. In addition to being a visual record, these photographs illustrate changes Kenilworth has undergone.

Photography has shifted dramatically to digital formats in the last 10 years, and KHS wants to make it easier for you donate these photographs. By donating your photographs to KHS we are able to grow out collection and fulfill our mission, to collect, preserve, and make available the history of the Village of Kenilworth.

To donate a digital photograph to KHS, please complete the following steps:
• Email photographs to:
• Subject field titles: Digital Photo for KHS
• Attach the highest resolution photograph you have to the email in a .JPG or .TIFF file
• The body of the email need to contain a complete description, including:
o Names of all individuals in the photograph
o Names of photographer
o Location
o Date
o Any other pertinent information, such as: When the homeowners moved into the residence, what event the photograph was taken at, etc.
• Note: Up to 5 photographs can be attached to a single email ONLY if the description is the same for each photograph

The support of donations are essential to grow the historical society’s collections and exhibits. The Kenilworth Historical Society thanks you for your continued support.



615 Abbotsford, Kenilworth, Illinois c. early 1900s


615 Abbotsford, Kenilworth, Illinois. 1982

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The Kenilworth Historical Society

The mission of the Kenilworth Historical Society, founded in 1922, is to serve as a museum and repository for the local historical materials that document the people, events, and organizations involved in the history of the Village of Kenilworth, on an ongoing basis. The society collects, preserves, and interprets these materials and makes them available to the public, both children and adults, through exhibits, programs, and access to its research collection.

Kenilworth, Illinois is located between the villages of Wilmette and Winnetka, sixteen miles north of the Chicago loop.

The Society is located in the Stuart Memorial Building, 415 Kenilworth Avenue in the center of the village, directly east of the train station and across the street from the Kenilworth Assembly Hall. Kenilworth Avenue is accessible from Sheridan Road on the eastern end and Green Bay Road on the western end.

Museum and Research Center Hours:

Mondays, 9:00 t0 4:30 and Thursdays, 9:00 to 12:00 Kenilworth, Illinois is located between the villages of Wilmette and Winnetka, sixteen miles north of the Chicago loop.


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